The diehard baseball fan cringes as the calendar flips from September to October. Yes, there’s nothing like seeing your team play in October (Sorry, Cubs fans) but it also means we’re just a few weeks away from a baseball drought.
Oh sure, there’s something called football that seems to keep people entertained and even a game they refer to as hockey – but if it’s baseball that’s in your blood – no other sport will do.
Even though the final out of the World Series launches a dark, depressing, empty time of year for baseball fans – there’s reason to keep on living! Many reasons actually.
Here are nine ways to enjoy baseball and the rich traditions and history of America’s favorite game while we all wait for opening day to come back around.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, New York is a must for any true baseball fan. The museum is open year round and admission is $19.50 for adults. If you’re flying you’ll want to get a flight to Albany, New York which is the nearest major airport. When you arrive, an off site trolly can bring you to the museum and other Cooperstown hot spots as parking is pretty scarce. The city’s website is full of other things to see and do in the area.
The Today Show recently named Cooperstown one of the best places in the U.S. to enjoy beautiful Fall scenes as the leaves change colors.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is a fun stop for the entire family. As you pass by the 120 foot high baseball bat propped against the building, you’ll stroll through a great museum with bats used by players going all the way back to the start of Major League Baseball. You’ll also find a display of all of the bats used at the most recent World Series.
The behind the scenes tour of the production facility is fascinating as you’ll witness employees working on actual bat orders for professional players. (When I was there last year they were making bats for Yankee’s star Derek Jeter.) Seeing the entire process is really interesting and a treat at the end of the tour – your own “mini-slugger” to take home.
There’s a gift shop with more Louisville Slugger merchandise than one person could ever need as well as a place inside to order a customized bat of your own.
After your visit – be sure to make time to check out the rest of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The area is loaded with awesome places to eat and other fun sights to take in.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
In 1920, the Negro National League was formed specifically for black baseball players that were not allowed to play on professional teams with white players. The teams in the leagues featured talented athletes from all around the country while helping to revitalize many of the communities in which they played. In 1945, Jackie Robinson was recruited from a Kansas City team called The Monarchs to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. While it was a positive turning point for race relations in America – it began an inevitable decline for the Negro Leagues.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum shares the inspiring and at times, heartbreaking story of the players and teams. It’s very well designed and certainly worth a visit. You may not recognize all of the players but any baseball fan will appreciate and respect the milestones and accomplishments on display here in Kansas City, Missouri. One cool display is a large collection of over 200 baseballs autographed by players from various teams in the Negro Leagues. The collection was donated to the museum by Rush bassist Geddy Lee.
Field Of Dreams
Truth be told – traveling to Iowa in the Winter months may not be the best idea. However, if you’re passing through anyway – Field of Dreams is a great stop!
Like any sort of TV or movie set – you’ll be amazed how much smaller things appear in real life. It’s fun seeing kids playing ball on the field and taking a photograph with the corn stalks visible in the outfield just like in the movie. Everything is exactly the same as it was in the Kevin Costner film including the stands, the house he lived in and as mentioned – the corn in the outfield. It costs nothing to visit but a small stand across the parking lot offers a handful of keepsakes for sale.
Beware however, it really is out in the middle of nowhere. Dyersville, Iowa is a small rural town with its only other claim to fame being home of the National Farm Toy Museum.
Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum
Babe Ruth may be the most well known player to ever step foot on a baseball field in the history of the game. While in Baltimore, Maryland you can visit the actual birthplace of George Herman Ruth. The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum has wonderful one of a kind artifacts and tells the story of a guy who was destined to be a baseball superstar even as a young child. You can visit year round and admission is only $6.00.
Baseball Team’s Hall of Fame
Some MLB organizations have their own Hall of Fame that offers a look at cool memorabilia and exhibits tailored to their own team. The Saint Louis Cardinals for example have an impressive museum next door to Busch Stadium featuring items from legends like Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith and members of the 1934 Gashouse Gang.
Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Kansas City, New York (Mets & Yankees), Philadelphia, Saint Louis and Seattle all have their own Hall of Fame in or near their respective stadiums.
If you are fortunate enough to have an MLB team in your neck of the woods – have you thought about taking a tour of your team’s stadium? Tours are typically given year round and most are less crowded in the off season. You’re also likely to have more access to things like the players locker room and clubhouse as there aren’t any games going on. Almost every stadium tour gives you a chance to step onto the field and in the dugout to take photos.
Catch A Movie!
There’s certainly no shortage of great baseball movies if you can’t or don’t want to travel around the U.S. during baseball’s off season.
The New York Post recently published a list of the 10 Best Baseball Movies although we all have our favorite.
Some of mine include:
A League Of Their Own, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Bad News Bears, Moneyball, The Natural and 42.
When the words “Spring Training” start appearing in the newspaper and in the nightly sports report – baseball fans start the process of coming out of our off season comas. While it’s not quite opening day – it’s good enough just to hear the sweet sound of a fast ball hitting a wooden bat.
The Spring training hotspots are in Florida and Arizona.
The Cactus League as you might imagine – is in Arizona while Florida is home to what’s called The Grapefruit League. However, each team typically offers some sort of Spring Training package to get up close to players and see team work outs. Depending on where your favorite team calls home for the Spring – you should consider booking early as everyone in America is anxious to get away from the cold and snow of Winter.
Here’s a current list of the spring training homes for all 30 MLB teams:
ARIZONA SITES (Cactus League Locations)
- Arizona Diamondbacks: Salt River Fields
- Chicago Cubs: HoHoKam Park
- Chicago White Sox: Camelback Ranch
- Cincinnati Reds: Goodyear Ballpark
- Cleveland Indians: Goodyear Ballpark
- Colorado Rockies: Salt River Fields
- Kansas City Royals: Surprise Stadium
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Tempe Diablo Stadium
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Camelback Ranch
- Milwaukee Brewers: Maryvale Baseball Park
- Oakland Athletics: Phoenix Municipal Stadium
- San Diego Padres: Peoria Sports Complex
- San Francisco Giants: Scottsdale Stadium
- Seattle Mariners: Peoria Sports Complex
- Texas Rangers: Surprise Stadium
FLORIDA SITES (Grapefruit League Locations)
- Atlanta Braves: Champion Stadium
- Boston Red Sox: JetBlue Park
- Baltimore Orioles: Ed Smith Stadium
- Detroit Tigers: Joker Marchant Stadium
- Houston Astros: Osceola County Stadium
- Miami Marlins: Roger Dean Stadium
- Minnesota Twins: Hammond Stadium
- New York Mets: Digital Domain Park
- New York Yankees: George M. Steinbrenner Field
- Philadelphia Phillies: Bright House Field
- Pittsburgh Pirates: McKechnie Field
- St. Louis Cardinals: Roger Dean Stadium
- Tampa Bay Rays: Charlotte Sports Park
- Toronto Blue Jays: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
- Washington Nationals: Space Coast Stadium
Whatever you do this Winter to keep your mind busy waiting for another opening day, just remember that April will be here before you know it! In the meantime, take advantage of the many opportunities around the U.S. to enjoy baseball even in the off season.
Follow Bill On The Road at @ontheroadwithbc